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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

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Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

His Hollowness The Imam of Islam Hadhari

You can tell much about a creed by its practices, in particular that of its leader. By this measure, Islam Hadhari is a cruel hoax perpetrated by Abdullah Badawi on the citizens. This recently concluded Ramadan was Abdullah’s fifth as Prime Minister. On none of those occasions did he see fit to live or demonstrate the spirit of generosity and forgiveness that is the hallmark of Ramadan.

During the tenure of Mahathir, as well as others before him, it was traditional for the King on the advice of his Prime Minister to pardon prisoners during the last days of Ramadan, in time for them to join their families for Eid celebrations. We had the writer and philosopher Kassim Ahmad as well as the scholar Syed Hussin Ali, prisoners of conscience under the ISA, thus released. My classmate, once a fast rising star in UMNO and a former cabinet minister, was also pardoned of his murder conviction and released.

Abdullah has had five Ramadans to demonstrate the generosity or magnanimity of his Islam Hadhari. He missed them all. Equally significant, during the recent 50th Merdeka Anniversary, Abdullah did not see fit to have any amnesty program for prisoners. Nor did he have one on assuming power.

In his typically sermonizing Hari Raya message he exhorted Muslims to be generous and gracious. That was as far as he went; nothing beyond dispensing homilies.

On closer scrutiny, there was nothing in the ten stated principles of his Islam Hadhari about generosity or charity. How foolish of me to assume that the “Islam” of Islam Hadhari would at least have some redeeming qualities like charity, a pillar of our great faith!

Abdullah’s idea of generosity during this last Hari Raya was to host a multi-million ringgit “Open House” at the Putra World Trade Center. Rest assured that the funding of this mega bash would come out of the public treasury. It is easy to spend or give away money when it is not yours.

During this past Ramadan, Abdullah hosted an iftar, (communal breaking of the fast) and then proceeded to lead his guests in the obligatory Maghreeb as well as the optional Taraweekh prayers. A more gracious (and modest) host would have had some other ulama or ustaz from among the guests to do the honors. Not Abdullah, he hogs it all, in the name of piety and humility (or his public demonstrations thereof). His version, that is.

On another occasion, this time with members of the media (only those with demonstrated sycophantic sentiments), he had the writer and political observer Syed Hussein Alattas (Pak Habib) partake in a simple meal of ubi rebus (soup of tuber roots), a cheap staple made infamous during the hard days of the Japanese occupation. The normally perceptive and critical Pak Habib was so taken up by Abdullah’s “humble “ gesture that Pak Habib gushed at the “humility” of the Prime Minister.

This was nothing more than a crude and ineffective attempt at “slumming” for the benefit of the members of the media to see and thus report. You can bet that no such soup would be served on board the newly acquired luxurious RM200 million corporate jet reserved for Abdullah’s use.

The normally “not-easily-bought” Pak Habib, a political commentator I admire greatly, went so far as to have his picture taken with the “humble” Prime Minister clad in his peasant-style sarong and modest baju Melayu. The snap shots of the duo affectionately embracing each other were of course emblazoned on his website. The independently wealthy and fiercely unconventional Pak Habib could not be had with flattery or money, but a simple ubi rebus did it!

He Did Not See as Head of OIC

Thanks to the efforts and international stature of his predecessor, Abdullah assumed the leadership of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) on becoming Prime Minister. While Mahathir was forceful in pursuing the interests of Islam and of Islamic nations in foreign forums, Abdullah has been busy maintaining his so-called “elegant silence” abroad.

His presence at the recently concluded UN General Assembly was hardly noticed, except of course by the Malaysian media. Consequently and by default, the world now increasingly views Islam and Muslims as represented by such crackpots as Iran’s Ahmadnejad.

As head of OIC, he is silent over the two continuing major tragedies occurring in the Muslim world – the American occupation of Iraq, and the horrifying human sufferings in Darfur. His silence reflects indifference. It is a measure of his callousness to human sufferings, just as he is indifferent to the fate of the many prisoners of conscience in his own country. That again reflects his understanding of Islam, and the guiding principles of his Islam Hadhari.

Closer to home, Abdullah is equally oblivious of the atrocities perpetrated by Myanmar’s thuggish military junta. As the self-proclaimed Imam of Islam Hadhari, I would have expected him to have some modicum of sympathy for the brutal oppression of those fellow leaders of faith, the monks. Alas, there was none.

In secular America, President Bush and other senior leaders have to declare publicly their income tax returns. From such disclosures the public gets to know how much these leaders have contributed to charity. It turned out that both Bush and others had contributed generously. God bless them!

Zakat (charity) is a major pillar of Islam. Although not specifically stated in its ten major principles, I would expect that Islam Hadhari too would emphasize charity. If Abdullah could afford to vacation regularly in Turkey and Australia, as well as host a multimillion ringgit Hari Raya bash, I wonder how much this Imam has donated for his zakat this year?

Abdullah and others have been busy proclaiming Malaysia to be an Islamic State. Let’s begin with that basic prerequisite of Islam: making all Muslims give their fair share of zakat. Once we have achieved that, we can then consider implementing the other rules of the Syaria.

Islam Hadhari notwithstanding, one thing is certain under Abdullah’s leadership. The rats that are his cronies and family members have been busy nibbling away at the state’s precious assets. With time all that would be left is a state treasury that resembles Swiss cheese, full of holes with only a thin crust to hold its shape. This is what happens when we have as chief executive a kaki tidor (sleepy head), or to pursue my metaphor, a cheese head (kepala kosong – empty head).

No toast to His Hollowness The Imam of Islam Hadhari. Instead, let him be toast.

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